The Council of Death

April 25,  2021 | The Council of Death | Life in the Arena | Acts 4

Highlights:
• When we place our hope in the resurrection it gives us the courage to face whatever comes our way.
• The greatest indicator that you are walking in the fullness of the Spirit is that you will courageously and passionately tell others about Jesus!
• What you confidently believe, you will passionately proclaim!

We are in week three of a series we have called Life in the Arena: When Obedience means defiance.

In Acts 4, Jesus has ascended and the church is expanding. 3,000 men have responded and all is well. But all of that is about to change. In Chapter 3 Peter and John on their way to a prayer meeting run into a beggar who was lame. They healed him in the name of Jesus, and then they preached the Gospel.

Chapter 4 starts by saying that the Sadducees, a religious sect of Judaism, were “greatly annoyed” because they were preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. They were becoming a public nuisance and were arrested. Despite their arrest, thousands responded and were saved. So this is why we are calling the sermon “The Council of Death”:

“On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.” Acts 4:5-6

This group was part of the governing council that just a short time earlier wrongly condemned Jesus to die. Specifically the mentioning of Annas and Caiaphas both of who were major players in the murder of Jesus. So Peter and John are now standing before the men who had the power to condemn them to death just like they did Jesus.

The governing authority who killed Jesus makes a threat to John and Peter. Their response: “if we have to choose between obeying you and defying God, or to defy you and obey God, we choose God! Because we cannot help but tell people what we have seen and heard!”

At this moment, obedience meant defiance! They courageously stood in the arena without fear of the cost! This is BOLD! In fact, the authorities recognized how bold it was! In the text, you literally see these guys go from cowards to courageous overnight. These same men who fled in fear are now standing in the arena ferociously in their faith. What happened? How can we live with that same kind of courage every day?

  1. The Hope of the Resurrection – the Resurrection was at the center of their message. These men move from freighted to fearless because they saw the resurrected Jesus! The council of death did not get the final say. They were not the end for Jesus. When we place our hope in the resurrection it gives us the courage to face whatever comes our way. Jesus defeated the greatest enemy called death and now we live from that position of victory.
  2. The Presence of the Holy Spirit – Peter’s boldness was an overflow of the Holy Spirit of God in Him. This is the very presence of God in Him! When He says, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” it does not mean that He didn’t have the Spirit. Peter received the Holy Spirit back in chapter 2. But it means that Peter received a “fresh power” from the Holy Spirit. We now receive the Holy Spirit at conversation. When you face the arena, the Holy Spirit will be with you and HE will give you the strength to stand and the words to say!

If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is in you! When you depend on Him as your source of strength, He will give you fresh power and divine words to face any opposition or to seize any opportunity that He puts in front of you! The greatest indicator that you are walking in the fullness of the Spirit is that you will courageously and passionately tell others about Jesus!

The Certainty of the Gospel – In Acts 4:10, 12, Peter’s heart absolutely erupts with an unapologetic proclamation of the Gospel. He says, ‘Jesus died and has been raised and there is no salvation, not any for anyone, no matter who you are or what you believe apart from Jesus!’

Peter and John are fearless because they understand that what they are speaking is the truth. They are more certain about the Gospel than anything else in life.

What you confidently believe, you will passionately proclaim. Your deepest convictions will be your loudest declarations.

When it comes to the world’s problems and the hope of America and your family, what are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up? The disciples confidently believed that Jesus was the hope of the world therefore they passionately proclaimed it!  How about you? How can you be passionate about Jesus?

Spend time with Jesus – God uses ordinary, common people who spend time with Him. Time with God results in boldness, conviction, and knowledge of the Gospel.

Ask God for boldness – The early church met for prayer regularly. Prayer is not our last resort, it is our first response. The disciples didn’t pray for God to elevate the struggle, to bring about fairness nor for new government officials. They said: GIVE US BOLDNESS! God answered their prayer and by the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed the Gospel and preached the resurrection!